Strapping kayaks to a trailer

-- Last Updated: Jul-16-14 12:18 AM EST --

What type of straps do you recommend to secure kayaks to a trailer? Hopefully something I can buy at Walmart, Menards or Home Depot. Thanks.

The only ones I would use are
camlock buckle type.

You can get them in most sporting stores and in all canoe/kayak outfitters.

Don’t use ratchet type. You can damage your boats by ratcheting them too tight

Jack L

or rope
Or just use rope and a trucker’s hitch

Cam lock buckle type.
I’ve used the ratchet type and ran into some problems tightening it. It was too loose and on the next click, it was too tight. Suggest the cam locks.

Just to clarify a little more,
this is the kind of cam buckle strap they mean. They’re available at places other than NRS but not at Menards, HD et al but just as cheap and much better. FWIW I use twelves for my canoes and nines for my daughter’s yaks. If you can’t find them locally just order some. You’ll wonder what you ever did without them.

cheap straps
The problem with most cheap nylon straps (like the ones you’ll find at builders stores and Harbor Freight) is the nylon is too thin and slick – they don’t hold up well or tighten down reliably – I have several of these types and will only use them when I am hauling a few miles at low speeds. The NRS or Thule straps, or the versions you can get at L.L. Bean and other outdoor gear shops, are thicker and have a rough texture so they hold better. It is definitely worth paying a few extra dollars for a sturdy strap to protect hundreds of dollars worth of boat. I have had my blue Thule logo straps for 15 years and countless trips and they are still good as new. They also have a rubber guard that cushions each of the buckles and protects them from the elements.

My vote
Once again, I am an advocate for using rope and for this application I use only nylon rope. With rope you have no metal buckles etc. to either rub on the boat, or bang against the gel coat while you’re in the process of strapping it down. If you learn to tie the right kind of hitches, they will never fail as some buckle devises sometimes do.

I use a soft type nylon and keep it clean and free of sand to prevent scratching of the gel coat. For a little added protection, I use some pieces of synthetic wool seat cover material for pads where the ropes contact the boat.

Second that about
slick straps. I’ve run into these and they don’t hold. I’ve found cheap straps at the Evil Wally World that were fine, but they had others that were too slick. You can end up spending as much for the cheap ones as you do for the others because you don’t know which cheap ones work.

Rope, straps, and marring the finish
I prefer rope too, but recently figured out that straps can be harder on the boat’s finish than rope. I would’ve thought it would be the other way around.

Last year and this year, I’ve noticed that every time I use my Thule straps to tie down my most-used Royalex canoe, the pattern of the weave becomes embossed into the Royalex in the area of the chine. I’ve mostly used rope over the years, and have never seen a permanent mark left on Royalex by rope.

Even “good” straps can slip.

– Last Updated: Jul-16-14 3:51 PM EST –

I sometimes use Thule straps. People can say what they want about how well the buckles on Thule straps grip, but they can slip under a strong pull. When I put the straps on and want to get the section on both sides of the "wrap-around" of the crossbar tight, I give the a good yank sideways on the strap section having the buckle, as a good sideways yank will cause the strap on the other side of the cross bar to slide to the adjusting side (with wood cross bars, it takes a good hard pull to accomplish this). That sideways yank puts a lot more tension on the strap, just for that moment, than you can apply during normal tightening, and the buckle usually slips about half an inch or so. A properly tied rope not only won't slip, it can't slip.

The cam-lock buckle is provided as a convenience, not because it's the most secure method of connection that is available.

Cam straps
You can use cam straps and place them so the buckle doesn’t touch the boat. The better ones, Thule, etc may have a small pad that goes under the buckle. If your worried about it comming undone, tie a overhand knot in the loose end, this will prevent it from slipping through the buckle. It may be loose, but you won’t lose it. For the loose end frm flying in the breeze, I use a small velcro strap to tie it up.

And say far away from the cheap one at Wally-world. I had one, the strap held up fine, but the buckle broke. Didn’t lose the boat, but it was close.

Never in my life have I had a cam buckle slip. Of course, I tie off the loose and so that if it DID slip, it would be inconsequential. you might want to check the cam lock function to make sure it isn’t corroded or rusty or otherwise neglected.

I have never had a strap mar my boat, and I’ve been using straps on this boat for a long time.

Metal buckles can be placed so they’re not against the boat, in fact it took me the first installation to figure this out. But in addition my cam locks have rubber covers on them, so no scratching.

The straps and buckles are …

– Last Updated: Jul-16-14 5:17 PM EST –

... fine, and in virtually new condition, and the buckles would slip a small amount when tugged that way even when brand-new. I could add that they don't always slip when I do that, but they often do. It's not something that worries me, but one can't argue that the design is aimed at anything other than convenience of use.

You don't carry any Royalex canoes, so I don't see how your experience of the straps not making any marks on your boats counters what I've seen. There's definitely a slight image of the fabric texture imprinted on the Royalex. I haven't seen this happen on plastic kayaks or on my composite boats. In any case, it's not a big deal, but it was relevant to the comments of the person I was replying to with that other post. By the way, another brand of strap that I sometimes borrow is softer, and leaves no marks on Royalex.

The comments about buckles marring the finish are irrelevant too, as that's not what I was talking about. Surely you don't think you need to explain to me that with some boats the buckles need not contact the hull, but with canoes that have no tumblehome, if you provide a straight-down strap orientation alongside the hull, there's really only a couple of inches along the strap's path where there's no hull contact (in that little notch where the hull meets the gunwale) and it's really not all that convenient to place the buckle there. That's nothing to fret over though because that's what the rubber covers are for.

Over thirty years anything slips
I’ve had the least slippage with transom straps, the lock down type ( flip the lever over). The Thule cam locks are very good too. The red Walmart specials were the worst and sadly you can get the same product at a hardware store and pay too much for them. Good rope knots hold well. But still, get the right combo of bumps and wind and any of them can slip. Or maybe the boat just wasn’t sitting perfectly when I cinched it down. Make ten trips no slippage then one day stop in a rest area and something loosened up a bit with all of the above. So my canoe gets the transom straps. The kayaks get tied down with rope or I use the Thule cam locks. Just don’t assume all is ok, check it now and then.


– Last Updated: Jul-17-14 12:08 AM EST –

Thanks guys. Do you guys know if the NRS straps are sold in any stores? I was hoping to buy some straps locally.

NRS straps
Not to my knowledge, but they are worth it. Also if you twist the straps as they come off the hull, you will greatly reduce the amount of vibration in the straps when driving. (BTW: For years I tied my canoes down with #14 irrigation wire. I had over 10,000 miles on my wires before i started using straps.) If you have to go to a cheap strap, be sure to tie them off after you tighten them down. We take the lose ends of all of our straps and put them inside the closest door and then tie a knot in them so they won’t flap around or come undone.

No matter what you do, BE SURE to run a line to your car’s front and back from your bow and stern and stern. After decades of success, we had a strap fail and the only thing that saved our canoes were the straps at the front and back. Cheap insurance!

Keep your blade wet and your head dry, and have fun.


Same here
Jack L

I have a bunch of different make
cam lock straps and found them all to be as good as NRS.

What ever brand you local outfitter sells will be just as good.

Jack L

Marks on Boats
Interesting. I’ve never noticed the marks you mention on my boats (royalex) but that’s not to say they’re not there. I’ll have to take a closer look. As for slippage, never experienced that.

FWIW I just think these discussions

– Last Updated: Jul-17-14 10:44 AM EST –

always devolve into "my option is better because of this anecdotal experience I had using the other option (which no one else experienced)". It's pointless and silly. Both work fine, both have their advantages, it's plainly obvious by the amount of people who use either method with no consequences. I could rattle off or exaggerate the dangers or drawbacks of using rope but it's plain to me that done properly, ropes work also.

There's nothing unsafe about straps and the "mar" issue seems not to be resolved for any material, if you see the response below.